What to look for in dancing shoes

One of the big questions we always seem to receive from our new students revolve around what type of shoe they need to wear.  We always recommend for our new male students to wear a shoe with a leather sole, and for our ladies, we recommend a very low heel or even flats.   If a student does not have shoes of this type, we even suggest to just wear socks for their first class.

After a few classes, a student can usually tell how serious about dancing they would like to become.  At that point, it becomes time to consider looking for the proper shoe to help them become a better dancer.  Any athlete will tell you that the proper sports equipment will make all the difference in the way you perform in your sport of choice.

Dancing is no different and to make things a little more difficult, shoes are also a fashion statement that play an important part in your overall presentation.  When it comes to dancing, it’s really is all about the shoes.  Dance shoes come in a wide variety, but three of the primary categories for my industry are the Ballroom/Standard, Latin and the general practice shoe.

There are certain criteria to consider when selecting a shoe.  These include not only appearance, but also comfort, support, performance, and protection. Women have a number of options between open-toed shoes and closed-toe shoes, with closed-toe shoes offering some protection against being stepped on by your partner.

Ballroom Shoe characteristics

Standard shoes for women are closed-toed pumps. The heel is positioned more centrally under the foot in order to ease backward movement.

Men’s standard shoes are usually a black oxford-style lace-up, with a heel comparable to regular dress shoes. This is the primary shoe type that men should consider purchasing.

Latin Shoe characteristics

Latin shoes for women are typically an open-toed sandal with a heel from 1 to 3 inches high. The standard heel height is 2.5 inches. If high heels hurt your feet consider adding arch supports. This is the primary shoe type that women should consider purchasing.

Men’s Latin shoes include a Cuban heel that is 1.5 inches high. Most men only wear Latin shoes for competition purposes, and very rarely for social dancing.

Practice Shoes

Practice shoes are optional, but can be helpful to take some of the wear and tear off of your more expensive shoes. Women’s practice shoes resemble a man’s standard shoe with a higher heel. Men and women also have options for dance sneakers that have suede soles.


Dance shoes are typically made and sold in European sizes, however, some stores do carry the American sizes.  Be sure to engage a shoe professional to ensure you are measured properly.

Dance Shoe Maintenance

Buying a pair of insoles will double the number of hours you can dance in comfort. The best insoles are the ones designed and sold for running shoes. Always avoid the “gel” insoles as their squishy nature voids much of the precision contact you need with the floor.

Heel protectors are recommended due to three important tasks: they protect the floor, they give you more traction, and they protect the heels of your shoes. The little heel tips on your shoes wear out quickly, and when they wear out, they expose the nail that attaches them to the shoe. Replacing them will cost $5 or more and generally requires a shoe specialist to replace. Using plastic heel protectors will prolong the life of your shoes, protecting your investment.

Suede soles lose their grip after a couple of months.  Though some dancers wear their shoes outside of the ballroom, it is recommended to change your shoes when entering the studio and then again when you leave. You may purchase a steel-bristled shoe brush which will let you “refresh” the suede on your shoes. These are available at dance shoe vendors, or online.

Where to Buy Dance Shoes

In the Charlotte area, one of the shoe stores I recommend to visit is Lebo’s.  They have a very knowledgeable staff and can usually do special orders for people who may need a wide shoe.

The online options for purchasing dance shoes are almost overwhelming.   A few of the online stores I would recommend include Amazon or Dance Shoes Online.  Some students have even found success through EBay.

Do you have any favorite stores or brands to suggest?  Join the conversation below…

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